Monday, August 31, 2015

Vistara- Where people make the difference

Neelam Mathews
Aug 31, 2015

     Credit- Vistara website

One has got so used to a DIY culture with domestic airlines-I'm not complaining as the budget concept and what comes with it is pretty ingrained into us- that,when old fashioned service is given, it seems a bit alien.
But one gets used to it in a hurry as I discovered while checking into the business class of Indian aviation's newest star, Vistara in Delhi for an early morning flight to Bangalore. Checkin was smooth and despite my meek protests not to be accompanied, I was ushered into the lounge and it felt like going back into time. So why not sit back and relax as they say?
Inflight, the seat was comfy, cold towels given etc etc, and though the hand-held IFE had programs I had no affinity to, the warm flight attendant- ex KFA and Saudia-made me forget all my gripes as she patiently and honestly catered to every annoying query from me.For a journo, thats a goldmine!
Yes, the Tata-SIA factor is certainly working its magic! It did make me wonder what if the airline had been allowed to be launched years ago when political ambitions and ulterior motives had taken priority? Would the fate of the present full service carriers have been the same? Or would Vistara too have turned into a budget model by now? But lets forget that now. Who has the time to stand and stare! The reality is now.
Breakfast isn't a stand-alone affair. There's a choice of beetroot upama, a very Indian concept of an egg with parantha and chicken. But  what I'm smitten by is the whole wheat bun with parmessan cheese which I'm told is made for Vistara by SATS-AI catering-ofcourse! This is the highlight for me- as major international flights do not keep bread of this quality. I'm told the premium economy too has three choices, but do wonder with crazy cut-throat fares and full service competing with so called budget carriers tight with the buck, how long can this be sustained.

However, as a new airline, they have to compete and they do have great coffee and exceptional service!
“Consumer research conducted when we were setting up the airline showed that inflight meals are a sore point with Indian flyers, who are disgruntled in terms of quality and variety of food that is served on board.
Most airlines serve the same food all the time, usually a rice and curry combination with very little variation. We have adopted an innovative approach in planning our inflight meals keeping in mind our customers’ requirements. Our menu features varied cuisines including international selections and are rotated regularly.  Frequent flyers would rarely have the same meals on two consecutive trips.” said Giam Ming Toh, Chief Commercial Officer, Vistara.

PS- Just to ensure I'm not writing a fluff piece, I asked for an Iphone charger- always an issue. Pop comes the hand device, leaving me little to grouse about.
Well as we land, my fairy tale comes to a close- so I think! I'm picked up at the gate and as we walk towards the exit, I'm begining to get really embarrasssed and I totally insist I will find my own way. She is not happy but gives in. Sorry to bore you but my driver was missing and long and short of this is that I walked to the Vistara window and though I was no longer flying on the return flight, the generosity and help including the use of Priyadarshini's personal mobile, was heart rendering and touching.
And that is what makes the difference- people- without which this article would not have been written - it is not the 3 course meals, soft blankets and pillows, IFE, comfortable chair, great landing- but trained people who also have their hearts in the right place. And now with Vistara having  tied up with Sharaf Travels of the Gulf, could this be a sign of another full service to the Gulf in the near future? Look forward to the luxury of flying!

Some Observations
Business Class Vistara

  • Dedicated Business Class Check-in and Bag Drop as well as priority baggage reclaim
  • Priority boarding
  • Seats- 7 inch seat recline, 42 inch seat pitch (largest in the domestic market claims the airline), Extendable leg rest, Height adjustable headrest with wings, Footrest and Cushions for additional back support.
  • The three-course meal served in Business Class with four (two vegetarian and two non-vegetarian) served on fine bone china crockery and glassware.
  • In partnership with BAE Systems’ IntelliCabin™ in-flight entertainment (IFE) system, the Business Class customers are provided with customised Samsung Galaxy tablets with preloaded content
  • There’s also some personal storage space located at the side of the seat with enough room for small items like glasses, gadgets or a book

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